John Day

News and commentary on automotive EE trends and topics

12 August, 2015

We recently bought a new car and are quite happy with it. It has navigation (with a large screen), a backup camera with cross-traffic alert, blind-spot detection, and undoubtedly some other nifty features we have yet to discover.

But the search for that car took some time, and I wondered more than once if we could get a more or less up-to-date car that would fit our budget. One car we looked at was very promising except that the navigation screen was much smaller than we wanted. We read descriptions with numerous references to “available” features, but we had to distinguish advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) and infotainment features from tires, an engine, or whatever. Not surprisingly, in more than a few cases the technology we wanted added significantly to the car’s price.

I suspect the time will come that a feature like blind-spot detection will be as common as four tires and a steering wheel. Perhaps one step in that direction was the announcement this week by Mercedes-Benz USA that mbrace Connect will be available on all MY2016 vehicles. That includes remote start, remote diagnostics, and an iHeart Radio app.

mercedes NY58315LOGOMercedes said its bundle of connected services will be standard on all MY2016 Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and SUVs for five years. With mbrace Connect, owners have access to the mbrace Mobile App, mbrace Web Services, in-vehicle Roadside Assistance services, non-streaming Mercedes-Benz apps, and remote updates.

The mbrace Mobile App includes a Remote Start function that allows owners of MY2016 models to start their engines remotely via their smartphone.

“With mbrace Connect, we’re resetting the value equation for our customers, offering some of our best and newest mbrace features at no extra cost well into the life of their new car,” said Bart Herring, MBUSA general manager of product management.

Two additional service packages, mbrace Concierge and mbrace Entertain, are included with a standard three-month trial. mbrace Concierge offers drivers their own “personal assistant” with 24/7 non-emergency agent support like turn-by-turn route assistance and location-based traffic and weather updates. mbrace Entertain gives customers access to streaming apps, including the new-for-MY2016 iHeartRadio app coming this fall, plus an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot. After the trial those packages will cost $20 or $18 per-month respectively, or $28 per-month for both.

There are also three optional packages – mbrace Secure, mbrace Concierge, and mbrace Entertain. The mbrace Secure package includes safety and security services such as emergency crash notification, stolen vehicle location and automatic alarm notification. It’s free for six months and $199 per-year afterward.

Will all automakers eventually make these kinds of services easier to buy?

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10 August, 2015


There is a growing consensus among automakers and suppliers that Ethernet is a very promising network backbone not only for connected vehicles and autonomous driving but also for ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) sensors, infotainment, and other more immediate applications.

According to Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at Gartner, 162 million Ethernet nodes containing 242 million ports will be included in consumer vehicles, worldwide by 2023.

Last week NXP Semiconductors introduced new automotive Ethernet products – transceivers (TJA1100) and switches (SJA1105) – to work with the OPEN Alliance’s BroadR-Reach™ standard.

NXP has shipped six billion CAN, LIN, and FlexRay transceivers to the automotive industry and is providing two million transceivers per day. The company says that Ethernet will complement these existing standards.

Jens Hinrichsen, NXP senior vice president, Secure Car Access & Networking, says the Ethernet portfolio “will open up a variety of new features for future connected cars.” He adds, “It is inspiring to see the first ‘true’ automotive Ethernet transceivers and switches coming to market – ready to meet the stringent automotive requirements for EMC (electromagnetic compatibility), quality, reliability, and volume production.”

According to NXP, many automakers are already focused on developing assistant and infotainment systems around Automotive Ethernet. This is likely to be the model for the next generation of cars employing Ethernet — not replacing systems like CAN, LIN, or FlexRay, but instead used alongside these systems for specific data intensive applications.

Earlier this year Mentor made Automotive Ethernet available in the Volcano™ VSA™ product for network design of both AUTOSAR-based and non-AUTOSAR electronic control units (ECUs).

Increasingly, it said, Ethernet is being used in areas in which high bandwidth and reliable performance are essential, such as ADAS, vehicle network backbones, audio video bridging (AVB) systems, and diagnostic communication over Internet Protocol (DoIP).

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15 July, 2015

One nice thing about the reporting I do on the automotive electronics industry is that there is always something to learn. Keeps the cobwebs out of my head (mostly).

When I last tuned in to the issue of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, automakers and suppliers were working together to come up with the lightest and longest lasting battery possible. As far as I know, they still are. So the issue of what happens to EV batteries when their useful life has ended has not come up; that is, until I learned that Nissan, 4R Energy, and Green Charge Networks are working together to leverage the energy potential of “second-life” EV batteries.

Li-ion Battery Pack

Li-ion Battery Pack

The firms want to deploy second-life lithium-ion vehicle batteries for stationary commercial energy storage in the U.S. and international markets.

Nissan says that with more than 178,000 LEAF vehicles sold since late 2010, The Nissan LEAF is the world’s top-selling electric vehicle.

Nissan has conducted multiple research projects in Japan, the U.S. and Europe to use LEAF batteries outside the vehicle through 4R Energy, a joint-venture with Sumitomo Corp. formed in 2010.

In a new stationary storage application powered by Green Charge’s intelligent software and Power Efficiency Agreement™, the second-life energy storage unit has a cost advantage over traditional units, opening up new markets where incentive programs are currently not offered.

Engineering teams from both companies have worked together for more than a year to ensure safety, reliability and performance of this offering for commercial customers.

The first combined storage unit will be installed at a Nissan facility this summer, where multiple Nissan LEAF batteries will be configured to offset peak electricity demand, creating savings while also benefiting the utility grid. Systems like this can also be paired with renewable energy sources such as wind or solar to further reduce a facility’s environmental footprint and enhance energy savings.

“A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan LEAF still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of LEAF battery packs in non-automotive applications,” said Brad Smith, director of Nissan’s 4R Energy business in the U.S. “Nissan looks forward to working with Green Charge Networks to get second-life vehicle batteries into the hands of customers who can realize benefits that include improved sustainability and lower energy costs.”

“This partnership is extremely important to the distributed energy storage industry,” said Vic Shao, CEO of Green Charge. “This partnership is ultimately about power efficiency – reducing our carbon footprint, stress on the grid and energy costs.”

For more information on the Nissan 4R and Green Charge partnership, visit

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4 July, 2015
Mitch Randall Photo~13.may.2015

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is a director of the Open Dots Alliance, a non-profit organization formed to promote the Open Dots wire-free charging standard. He also invented the technology, which he says is currently in use on 12 vehicle models across five brands (Ford, Chrysler, RAM, Dodge and Scion).

According to Randall, that amounts to more cars and trucks with Open Dots than all other wire-free power technologies combined. It’s also on INCIPIO phone cases.

He says wire-free charging is gaining wide acceptance among automakers because vehicle owners want a hassle-free “drop and charge” way to charge phones while they drive.

That makes sense, especially for anyone who wanted to use his phone for navigation on a long trip (ran right out and bought a plug-in charger, so that won’t happen again).

The Open Dots standard can be used to charge tablets, laptop computers, power tools and other devices as well as phones. There are no license fees or royalty payments associated with the standard, which uses a distinctive pattern of four contacts (or dots) to receive wire-free power.

Randall says the standard uses a conductive technology that is fundamentally different than other technologies based on induction. Among the differences:

• No electromagnetic fields are used.
• Devices receive power at any position or orientation on a pad.
• The technology can deliver up to 160 Watts
• High and low power devices can operate side-by-side on a pad
• A pad will charge as many devices as will fit on its surface
• Efficiency is nearly 100%
• The technology is inherently low-cost.

The Open Dots Alliance is open to all interested companies. There are no fees to join. “Members simply pledge not to make, sell, or resell ‘counterfeit’ conductive wireless products,” Randall says. The Open Dots Alliance defines “counterfeit” products as those that use a similar conductive technology but do not adhere to the standard. A compliance logo is displayed on consumer packaging to show that the product meets Open Dots’ certification standards.

The Open Dots Alliance’s website,, provides design guides, schematics, application notes, history, frequently asked questions, and more data.

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29 June, 2015

volvo 6-29-15Standard Safety Technology Cuts Accident Claims by 28 Percent

Claims data from Swedish insurers indicates that Volvo’s “City Safety” auto braking collision avoidance systems reduce insurance claims for rear-end frontal collisions by 28 percent.

The systems reduce the incidence of whiplash and other neck-related injuries caused by low-speed traffic accidents. They also reduce accident damage to cars and, thus, costs associated with the damage.

Specifically, figures from the study show that cars equipped with the first two generations of City Safety (active automatic braking up to 30/50 km/h in certain traffic situations) were involved in 28 percent fewer accidents and subsequent insurance claims.

The study from which the claims reduction estimate is derived is based on insurance company data that covers more than 160,000 vehicle years in traffic. Unlike data from police or emergency responders, insurance company data covers all accidents whether people are injured or not, thus it provides a more holistic overview of the real-life performance of the Volvo technology.

“Volvo Cars launched its first collision avoidance technology in 2006. City Safety was introduced as standard in all new Volvo car models from 2008. Since then we’ve been monitoring the performance of our collision avoidance systems in Volvo Cars throughout Sweden, where we have a 20 percent market share. This is a very strong statistical sample to base findings on, as every fifth car on the road in Sweden is a Volvo,” said Magdalena Lindman, Volvo Cars Technical Expert, Traffic Safety Data Analysis.

“We see our continuous development of collision avoidance and steering assist systems as stepping stones towards autonomous cars,” Lindman added. “We believe that collision avoidance systems will be an enabler for cars that do not crash and allow people the freedom to drive or be driven in comfort to their destination,” concluded Magdalena Lindman.

Not only that, but Volvo said insurance companies offer premium discounts of 20-25 percent to owners of Volvos that have City Safety technology. The first generation of the technology worked at speeds up to 30 km/h. As of this year it works at all speeds.

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26 June, 2015


Tier One supplier Continental is working on Road Departure Protection systems that aim to prevent unintended road departures. The systems will automatically steer a vehicle back into its lane when it begins to inadvertently leave the road or cross the center line into oncoming traffic.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, approximately 55 percent of traffic fatalities in the U.S. involve a vehicle crossing the roadway or center line. In Germany, 60 percent of fatal road accidents and 25 percent of non-fatal road accidents occur on rural roads, according to the German Federal Statistical Office.

Continental said the systems differ from Lane Keeping and Lane Departure Warning systems in that they specifically monitor the outside boundaries of the roadway and act with more authority to keep the vehicle within its intended space.

Road Departure Protection systems go beyond the lateral ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) by active road keeping in emergency situations before reaching the physical limits of vehicle dynamics. Leveraging environment perception, such as road edge detection or road course preview, the systems are designed to intervene actively when a vehicle leaves the roadway unintentionally.

A Virtual Guard Rail
“The system serves as a virtual guard rail, protecting the vehicle and its occupants from accidentally leaving the road; ultimately minimizing the risk of a potentially fatal accident due to driver error, distractions or drowsiness,” said Steffen Linkenbach, Head of Systems and Technology for the Chassis & Safety Division, Continental North America.

“The Road Departure Protection system enhances our driver assistance portfolio of products by adding an intuitive solution that goes beyond the warning phase by automatically steering the vehicle back into its lane while alerting the driver of the potentially dangerous situation.”

Automatically Steering a Vehicle Back into its Lane
The base system, which uses a forward looking mono camera to detect roadway boundaries, monitors the driver’s steering angle and vehicle path through existing Electronic Stability Control (ESC) sensors and also uses chassis motion sensors to identify if the vehicle is crossing the road boundary. It then uses the existing ESC system to apply individual wheel brakes to automatically steer the vehicle back on the road while simultaneously warning the driver and reducing the speed of the vehicle.

Active intervention is signaled when the vehicle senses it is departing the road. The system’s performance can be enhanced by road edge rumble strips, creating an opportunity for a combined vehicle plus infrastructure solution.

The system includes a driver intention recognition feature in the event that the driver intends to leave the road.
Continental is also working on an enhanced Road Departure system that uses a stereo camera and a long-range radar for improved detection of roadway boundaries, particularly for country roads in Europe.

The long-range radar and the stereo camera allow the generation of an occupancy map with information about the roadway within the vehicle’s field of view. Further confirmation of road departure and potential collisions is based on the map. The goal is to detect road boundaries even when lane markings are missing. Coordinated brake and steering intervention increase the efficiency of this system.

The further integration of road map and onboard GPS data also support an advanced preview ESC feature that detects the course of the road before entering a curve. Based on the predicted road curvature, the driver is supported in situations where the driving dynamics are critical; for example with inappropriate speed during curve driving on a country road or tight curves, to keep the vehicle within the physical limits of the road.

“With this cascaded approach, we are developing an advanced system function designed to address a significant proportion of traffic accidents and fatalities worldwide,” said Alfred Eckert, Head of Advanced Engineering within Continental’s Chassis & Safety Division. “Both systems have the potential to promote increased vehicle and driving safety and contribute to Continental’s Vision Zero, the goal of achieving zero traffic accidents.”

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24 June, 2015

sae logo

Call for Papers: SAE World Congress April 12-14 2016

If you have an idea for a paper or presentation you’d like to deliver at the 2016 SAE World Congress, now’s the time to start working on it. Submit your abstract online ( Papers are due September 1 and should be final by October 16.

SAE Members who author technical manuscripts can attend the World Congress free of charge.

Here’s what you need to get started:

1. A summary that states the objective of the paper/presentation
2. Tentative title
3. Name of the author and co-authors and all contact information
4. Selection of the most appropriate technical session

Here are the technical sessions:

• Electrical & Electronic Systems
• Electrical Systems Engineering
• Digital Modeling
• Design Tools
• Electronics in Powertrain
• Electronics in the Interior
• Testing & Instrumentation
• Electronics in Transportation
• Lighting Technology
• Advanced Electronics Functions
• Cybersecurity

• Emissions
• Thermal Systems
• Sustainable Systems
• Noise Reduction and Abatement
• Alternative Fuels and Power Sources
• Lightweighting and Energy Reduction

• Ferrous
• Non-Ferrous
• Materials Modeling & Testing
• Polymers & Coatings
• Bearings, Lubricant Systems & Tribology
• Biomaterials
• Interiors/Seating
• Automotive Composities
• Interiors
• Plastic Components, Process and Technologies

• Virtual Engineering E-manufacturing
• Accelerated Testing and Vehicle Reliability
• OEM Global Supply Chain
• Reliability & Robust Design in Automotive Engineering
• Axiomatic Design
• Design for Manufacturing
• Six Sigma
• Reliability Testing and DOE
• Modeling & Validation
• Lean Manufacturing for the Mobility Industry
• Concurrent Engineering
• Body Design & Engineering
• Design Optimization: Methods & Applications
• Body Structures
• Rapid Prototyping

• Fuel Cells, Electric Vehicles and Hybrids
• Other Non-Traditional Powertrains
• Fuel & Additive Effects on Combustion
• Compression Ignition Engines
• Spark Ignition Engines
• High Efficiency and Reduced CO2/km
• Control and Optimization
• Engine Components and Subsystems
• Lubricants
• Transmissions & Drivelines
• Engine Flows and Combustion Diagnostics
• In-Cylinder Velocity Measurements
• Heat Transfer and Advances in Thermal & Fluid Sciences
• Multi-Dimensional Modeling
• Vehicle & Engine Systems Analysis & Modeling

• V2V/V2I Safety
• Active Safety
• Occupant Protection
• Fire Safety
• Body Design & Engineering
• Design Optimization: Methods & Applications
• Body Structures
• Corrosion Prevention
• Digital Human Modeling
• Glass Applications
• Human Factors
• Lighting Technology
• Aerodynamics
• Wiper Systems
• Steering, Chassis & Suspension
• Tires & Wheels
• Vehicle Dynamics and Simulation
• Motorsports
• Functional/ Passive Safety
• Electronics in Safety
• Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH)


And here’s another idea: Why not consider volunteering to review technical papers? To learn more about that, email SAE.  Members who author technical manuscripts can also attend the World Congress free of charge.


19 June, 2015
paul hansen

Paul Hansen

A highlight of Mentor Graphics’ annual IESF event in Detroit is an industry overview by Paul Hansen, editor and publisher of The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics.

At this year’s event Hansen stressed the importance of software (“Of all the ingredients that comprise the vehicle’s automotive electronics, software is by far the most important”), innovation in Silicon Valley (“…where carmakers are going to find the app developers who will come up with the next great innovations in entertainment and the mobile experience”), over-the-air software updates (“carmakers can’t defend against cyberattacks without the ability to frequently update their vehicles with the latest cybersecurity software. Plus, the economic benefits are substantial”), and much more.

“A number of the world’s major carmakers, including BMW, Mercedes, Renault-Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota and GM, are developing highly-automated driving features that will let drivers turn their attention to things other than driving when they are on expressways,” Hansen told IESF attendees. “Highly automated driving is slated for 2020, but it must be accompanied by the ability to do over-the-air updates. Control algorithms will need to be frequently updated once the vehicles are on the road and carmakers begin to collect and analyze real-world performance data.”

According to Egil Juliussen, automotive technology senior director and analyst at IHS, by 2020 one-fifth of new production, or some 26 million vehicles produced globally, will have the ability to accept software updates over the air, either by embedded modems or brought-in devices.

The Most Confounding Challenge

“Among all of the challenges facing carmakers, none are more confounding than the challenge of building defenses against cybersecurity attacks,” Hansen said. “The auto industry is very aware that today’s vehicles are not well defended against cyberattacks. Tomorrow’s vehicles, with multiple wireless connections to the cloud and the world outside the vehicle, will be even more vulnerable.” He added that the industry is currently scrambling to understand the threat and find solutions.

“Carmakers worldwide are considering how automotive hardware and software must change to look for and protect against intrusion and harden connected vehicles against cyberattacks. Those changes are likely to impact many parts of the electrical and electronic system starting with vehicle architecture,” Hansen said. “Still, there will be no cybersecurity without the ability to provide over-the-air software updates to vehicle control system ECUs.”

Hansen concluded, “Companies who are looking for big problems to solve should consider investing in automotive cybersecurity, a fast-growing market segment that will be around for a long time.

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16 June, 2015

It’s no fun to drive over a pothole, and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) wants to minimize if not eliminate the chances of it happening to people driving their cars.

JLR is researching a new connected car technology that will allow a vehicle to identify the location and severity of potholes, broken drains and manhole covers, and then share this data in real-time via the cloud with other vehicles and with road authorities to help them prioritize repairs, as in vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X).

If a car could receive a warning from another vehicle about potholes or broken manholes, drivers would be able to slow down and avoid them – or the car could adjust suspension settings to reduce the impact and smooth the ride.

pothole_final_Cropper_Header“Our MagneRide equipped Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport vehicles feature sophisticated sensors that allow the vehicle to profile the road surface under the wheels and identify potholes, raised manholes and broken drain covers,” says JLR Global Connected Car Director Mike Bell.

“By monitoring the motion of the vehicle and changes in the height of the suspension, the car is able to continuously adjust the vehicle’s suspension characteristics, giving passengers a more comfortable ride over uneven and damaged road surfaces.”

Besides giving JLR customers a more comfortable ride, Bell sees an opportunity to turn vehicle sensor information into “big data” that could be shared to benefit other road users.

The next stage of the project at Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research Centre in the UK is to install new road surface sensing technology in the Range Rover Evoque research vehicle, including an advanced forward-facing stereo digital camera.

“At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole,” Bell says, “so we are also researching how we could improve the measurement and accuracy of pothole detection by scanning the road ahead, so the car could predict how severe they are before the vehicle gets near them.”

Bell sees the ability to sense the road ahead and assess hazards as a key step in JLR’s journey to the autonomous car. “In the future, we are looking to develop systems that could automatically guide a car around potholes without the car leaving its lane and causing a danger to other drivers. If the pothole hazard was significant enough, safety systems could slow or even stop the car to minimize the impact. This could all help make future autonomous driving a safe and enjoyable reality.”

JLR’s research team will also work with the Coventry City Council to understand how road profile information could be shared with road authorities, and what data would be most useful for road maintenance teams to identify and prioritize repairs.

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29 May, 2015

Perhaps they (who dinged my car) were backing out of a parking space somewhere and hit it, or whatever, but they didn’t leave a note. Yes, I know it’s pretty far down the list of bad things that can happen in the world, but it chipped paint from the rear bumper and it needs to be fixed before it gets worse.

Now I can wait a week or so to deal with this while the car sits in my driveway, but suppose the same thing happened to a rental car? I (or whomever the renter may be) would have to deal with the damage immediately.

Claims involving responsibility for nicks, scratches and more serious damage can become a major issue.
Before a customer rents a car the customer and a rental company agent conduct what often becomes a cursory inspection. Any scratches or dents? Record them. Then repeat the process, often with a different agent, when the car is returned.

If a scratch or dent is discovered, where and when did it occur, and who should pay to have it fixed?

HELLA, a 100-plus year-old Tier One that manufactures a variety of electronic products for cars, has developed sensor-based technology it calls SHAKE, which can help provide answers to the “where and when did it happen” questions and other insurance-related issues.

hella IMG_0895The number of sensors in cars is growing. Most monitor and/or diagnose conditions inside the car. SHAKE sensors monitor and track what happens outside the car. Fewer than a dozen sensors, each smaller than a credit card, can do a thorough job. They are typically mounted behind the car’s front and rear bumpers and its doors so they do not mar the car’s appearance.

HELLA says SHAKE can identify minor as well as major damage; scratches, for example, whether smaller or larger than 10cm, that may have been missed during a pre-rental inspection.

Currently, when a fleet owner finds damages after the customer has returned the vehicle it can contact the customer, but cannot clearly prove that the customer actually caused the damage. The customer, in fact, may not even be aware that the car was damaged.

With SHAKE installed, however, the fleet owner knows precisely when the scratch or dent occurred, where the car was at the time, and who had possession. With those questions answered objectively, the potential for cost saving over time is significant, and customers will know immediately if they are responsible for the cost of repair. Some will be glad that they purchased sufficient insurance.

As a new car option, a SHAKE damage-detection system should have considerable appeal to consumers as well, especially if there are younger drivers in the family or the car will be frequently left on public parking lots or valet parked. Or if it’s me.

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